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CPWR publishes alert, toolbox talk targeting opioid crisis in construction

opioid deaths
Photo: CPWR

Silver Spring, MD — In an effort to raise awareness of opioid-related overdose deaths among construction workers, the Center for Construction Research and Training – also known as CPWR – has published a hazard alert and toolbox talk on the topic.

More than 42,000 Americans died from opioid-related overdoses in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Construction workers face a higher injury risk than many other occupations, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows, and often are prescribed opioids to treat pain related to injuries.

A 2017 National Safety Council survey found that an estimated 15 percent of construction workers have substance abuse disorders – nearly double the national average of 8.6 percent. That same year, a Cleveland Plain Dealer analysis showed that, between 2010 and 2016, Ohio construction workers were seven times more likely to suffer an opioid-related overdose death than all other workers.

“This is shocking and sad, and there are steps we, in the occupational safety and health community, can take,” CPWR states. “We must educate everyone in our industry on the risks of taking prescription opioids for pain.”

The organization advises construction workers to:
Prevent injuries: Follow safe work practices, and ensure your employer is committed to maintaining a safe workplace.
Talk to a doctor: Consider opioids a last option for pain treatment. Ask your health care provider about other non-addictive forms of pain medication and pain management methods such as physical therapy or acupuncture.
Get help: Check with your employer or union about the availability of an employee assistance program or member assistance program for substance abuse.

The hazard alert and toolbox talk are available in English and Spanish.

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